There’s a lot of work to be done. That’s what we see in this passage where Jesus is traveling all over Judea, teaching, preaching, healing and leading the people of Israel who were “like sheep without a shepherd.” He was both pursued by, and a pursuer of, these lost sheep. He had great compassion on the people, seeing that they were harassed both from without – by an oppressive and violent pagan government – and from within – by “shepherds” who used and abused the flock for their own glory and gain.
Jesus certainly could have chosen to do all the work himself. After all, he was (and is) the Messiah – the deliverer and savior of his people. Being God himself, Jesus could have leaned into his divinity and continued indefinitely on a solo mission to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom; but, he didn’t. Rather, he chose to involve his Disciples – and every Christian since – in laboring to continue the work he began. He charged his Disciples to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest” after likening the lost people to a ripe harvest ready to be gathered in.
Imagine Jesus walking down the streets in modern-day Tokyo, Delhi, New York city, Los Angeles, Seoul, Mexico City, Shanghai or any other city, town or village (just the top ten most populous cities in the world have more than 225 million people combined!). Now, imagine Jesus seeing not paved roads and walkways covered in cars, buses and shoulder-to-shoulder people, but rather seeing millions of wheat stalks spread across millions of acres of fields, all ready to be harvested.
The whole world is a field, ripe for harvest. However, that does not necessarily mean every Christian is called to go to some foreign land to spread the Gospel. In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells his Disciples they would be his witnesses “in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” In other words, they were to go into the fields near and far. Some of the Apostles stayed in Jerusalem, while others, like Paul and Thomas, traveled to the far reaches of the known world at that time to preach the Gospel.
Just like the Apostles, we are all called to be Jesus’ witnesses to people near and far. Those who are not called to fields at the “ends of the earth” are implicitly called to fields nearby. Imagine one more time, this time it’s your neighborhood, workplace, city, or even your own home. Can you see each one as a field, and each person there who doesn’t yet know and believe in Jesus as a stalk of wheat? The two questions for each of us are these: have we acknowledged the field to which we’ve been called, and are we laboring with and for Jesus to bring in the harvest?
This isn’t just about obedience so we can feel good about ourselves or swelling church membership rolls to boast about numbers of converts. This is about the very eternal soul of each person standing ripe in the fields waiting to be harvested and brought into the storehouse of God, thereby avoiding the fire that’s coming to consume what remains in the fields at the end of the age.
Isaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.” Let’s make our feet beautiful … and dirty … by covering them in the soil of the fields that are ripe for harvest.